Spiders can make great pets! I wouldn’t suggest anyone with arachnophobia (fear of spiders) having one as a pet, but even beginner pet owners can take care of some types of spiders.
Tarantulas are the most common type of spider kept as a pet, and have become more and more popular as a pet in recent years. Although people tend to fear keeping a tarantula as a pet, it is often more harmful to the animal than to the pet owner. Tarantulas can die from a short fall if their abdomen ruptures, so great care must be taken when handling one.
Tarantulas are venomous, but in most species the toxicity of their venom is not strong enough to seriously harm a person. A tarantula bite can be compared to a bee or was sting. In most cases, it is harmless, though a person can have an allergic reaction to spider bites in much the same way that some react to bee stings.
There are hundreds of species of tarantulas and some are more aggressive than others. A few types that are great for beginners are Chilean Rose (Grammostola rosea), Curly Hair Tarantula (Brachypelma albopilosum) and Costa Rican Zebra (Aphonoplema seeman). The first is often the most highly recommended as they are considered the most passive of tarantulas.
In general, ground-dwelling or burrowing tarantulas are ideal for beginners, as they tend to be slower which decreases the chance of escaping their habitat or their owner’s hands.
Most pet dealers sell only female tarantulas, as these make the best pets. Females live much longer than males as pets, and male tarantulas will wear themselves down trying to escape to find a mate.
The ideal habitat for a tarantula is a small, plastic terrarium or aquarium. Be sure to check that the lid is secured tightly, as tarantulas can be surprisingly strong. Line the bottom of the habitat with potting soil that can be dampened every so often.
Include a water dish and objects for the spider to hide in. Food can include small insects like crickets and moths. Also, make sure all items within the cage are soft. Tarantulas are climbers and if they fall on rocks or sharp objects, they can die. Temperatures should be above 70 but less than 90 degrees within the habitat.
Female tarantulas may molt about once per year, and when they do this, they will flip onto their side or back. It isn’t dying (a dying tarantula will often curl its legs under itself), and should not be touched while on its back. After the spider molts, which can take a few hours, it is extremely fragile and should not be handled for at least a week.
The best thing to do if you’re interested in keeping a tarantula as a pet is to research the particular species, as they can vary greatly, and remember to handle it gently. Believe it or not, but you are far more dangerous to a tarantula than it is to you.